Call me crazy, but I've been wanting to try Bikram yoga for quite some time and tonight, I finally went to my first class.
Bikram yoga was developed by a man named Bikram Choudhury in the 197o's. It refers to the practice of completing twenty-six hatha yoga poses and two breathing exercises for 90 minutes in a heated room. Typically, the rooms are 105 degrees Fahrenheit and 40% humidity.
The warm temperatures are said to increase flexibility and the ability to ease into poses. Another claim that Bikram Choudhury makes about this style of yoga he created, is that sweating releases toxins and impurities from the body.
Regardless of whether you buy into the releasing of toxins part, yoga has been shown to increase strength and flexibility, amongst other health benefits, which was my main goal. Hey, if I happened to get rid of some toxins along the way, no problem, right?
Bzzzzzz. Wrong. Bikram himself refers to the heated yoga rooms as torture chambers and he's not kidding. It was torture.
Now, I'm not an athlete, but I'm in moderate shape. It's not like I walked in saying, "Hey, I'm here to try this newfangled thing you call exercise. Let me just finish this hot bowl of soup before I get started!"
No, I followed all of the rules and ate a light meal 3 hours before. I normally drink water all day so hydrating wasn't a problem.
About twenty minutes in, I was so dizzy I had to sit down. After that didn't seem to help much, I considered picking up my yoga mat and walking out. Of course, being me, I felt all bad that I would mess up everybody's zen so I stayed put.
I tried picking back up several times, some were easier than others, but I felt zero concentration on my poses. I just felt like I couldn't wait for it to be over.
I don't mind doing exercises where you have to build up stamina. I've trained for marathons and half marathons and often, it's a killer in the beginning, but at least things get progressively better. You achieve goals and even though the work is hard, you feel good.
After the class, a couple of women told me they've been doing this for years and it's still insanely difficult. Another, very lithe looking woman said she also has been an avid Bikram member, but that she ate five hours before the class and still felt like throwing up.
I was looking forward to the relaxation (led by the instructor) that happens at the end of every yoga class I've ever taken. I naively thought that would happen with Bikram so I was surprised when the instructor immediately left the room after class.
It was kind of like they took all of my favorite parts of yoga, removed them and added five furnaces.
I left feeling wobbly and completely lacking any of that euphoric runner's high that normally makes me feel so good after exercise. Instead, I still feel shaky and have a raging headache.
Bikram yoga has a ton of fans and to them I say, go on and sweat with your bad self. As for me? I'm on to the next exercise endeavor. One that does not involve a sauna.
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